LOS ANGELES — Consider two parallel universes: Charlie Sheen is destined to hit rock bottom after being fired from the best job he’ll ever have; or Charlie Sheen has been freed to blaze a new path to dazzling fame and riches.

Speculation about the dueling scenarios swelled after Warner Bros. Television said Monday that Sheen’s services on “Two and a Half Men” had been terminated, effective immediately, after careful consideration.

The studio said it’s yet to decide the fate of TV’s top-rated comedy. Under protest from Sheen, the studio halted production for the season to allow the hard-partying actor to seek treatment for acknowledged drug use.

During his bitter tug-of-war with the studio, attention focused on whether he was on the verge of killing his career. Imperiling a hit show and a job that paid a reported $1.8 million an episode — earning him north of $43 million a year — must be Sheen’s undoing, some observers said.

Not so fast, say others.

“At this point, all bets are off regarding where his career goes from here,” said Paul Levinson, a Fordham University media professor. “Although nothing is certain where fame and celebrity are concerned, Sheen’s ubiquity in the past few weeks suggests that he could indeed go on to become a bigger superstar than (the sitcom) could ever had made him.”

Opportunity already may have come knocking.

Sheen, 45, met Monday with executives at Live Nation Entertainment and is considering a series of stage shows, said the website Radar-Online.

Sheen also intends to sell a line of merchandise, including T-shirts, hats and mugs emblazoned with his catch phrases, the celebrity website said. It’s aimed at displacing what he called the “posers and bootleggers” making money off “Winning,” “Adonis DNA” and his other memorable utterances, the site said.

Before Sheen’s firing, billionaire Mark Cuban said he had contacted him about collaborating on a project that Cuban called a unique opportunity. It would let the actor “be himself and have some fun,” said Cuban, who owns the HDNet cable network.

As comedian Norm MacDonald tweeted before Sheen was kicked off the “Men” show: “I pray that someone can help @ CharlieSheen before he becomes even more successful, richer and happier.”

‘Queen Kate’ or ‘Catherine’?

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — Call her Kate, at least for now.

It may be years before Kate Middleton becomes queen, but questions are already being raised about the princess-to-be’s preferred moniker: Queen Kate or Queen Catherine?

Ever since her engagement became official in November, palace officials — and her fiance, Prince William — have taken to calling her Catherine, the name used on the official gold-embossed invitations to their nuptials at Westminster Abbey on April 29.

“Catherine” sounds more formal, regal and fitting for a future queen, experts say.

But Middleton herself may not embrace the change just yet. During a joint visit Tuesday with Prince William to Northern Ireland, Middleton mentioned casually that she thinks of herself primarily as Kate.

“I’m still very much Kate,” Middleton said when a woman outside Belfast City Hall asked what name she preferred.

According to the official royal wedding website, which started up last week, Middleton does not prefer one name over the other.

Phil Collins silences drums for fatherhood

LONDON — Singer and drummer Phil Collins has used his personal website to announce his retirement.

The London-born winner of multiple Grammy awards said he wanted to explain his reasons “for calling it a day” in response to articles claiming he was quitting the music business.

“Many of the articles … have ended up painting a picture of me that is more than a little distorted,” said Collins, 60.

He said he is stopping music so he can be a father to his two young sons “on a daily basis” — not because of bad reviews, bad press or because he doesn’t “feel loved.”